Oregon Music News: Oregon’s all-genre music magazine since 2009

01/16/2019

Nao at Wonder Ballroom on 1/14/2019 Photos and Review

By CARMEN KINTZ // East London breakout artist Nao graced Portland with her soulful funk stylings ‪Monday January 7, and her stellar performance burnt the Wonder Ballroom down to the ground. 

East London breakout artist Nao graced Portland with her soulful funk stylings ‪Monday January 7, and her stellar performance burnt the Wonder Ballroom down to the ground. The anticipatory energy, stoked by Xavier Omar’s opening, could be felt amidst the crowd even before the house lights dimmed to herald her entrance. As the lights went down the packed house hushed, only to explode in applause as the spotlight revealed Nao singing and dancing atop a podium standing tall among the audience.

The fans were instantly in the moment as their bobbing heads watched her groove from behind a glowing forest of raised cellphones. Her first song, Another Lifetime, ended under a roar of elation lasting fully thirty seconds “I can’t believe this is a Monday. You guys came and you came strong.” she said, smiling to the crowd. Back on the main stage she launched into her hit song Make it Out Alive. There she strode the platform in her flowing blue jumpsuit-gown, surrounded by her four band mates clad in jeans and plain white tees.

As the night continued her magnetic personality was undeniable, not only through the soulful performance of her tracks, but also through the gracious and inspiring words spoken between them. She told of her grandmother and her lifelong encouragement for her, she would often tell her, “You should always follow your compass.” As evidenced by this performance and her recent career, her compass is undeniably pointed in the right direction.

The set rolled on and the fans couldn’t be contained. Between the fourth song, Fool to Love and fifths place Adore You, a fan made it onto the stage. With microphone in her left hand Nao began to wave a beautiful orange Japanese fan in her right. Flickering in time with the driving beat, the hot weather accessory added impact and mystique to songs referencing love formed and love lost. While transitioning into the eighth song, Inhale Exhale, the spell continued to weave itself over the assembly as she donned a flowing silver cloak. Her dance moves continued unimpeded. When she raised her arms the gossamer cloth was blown upwards, aided by the Ballroom's industrial fans, drifting clear up to brush silvery against the high ceilings.

In the space before the final song her conversation began to echo many of the sentiments that recently filled her sophomore album “Saturn. She spoke to the crowd about change, growth and taking the time to find oneself. And having perseverance throughout the journey “take that next small step to reach your destination.”

The finale came and went, the young powerful voice and her accompaniment of four strode off backstage with roaring applause and raised voices at their backs. The din slowly began to fade and that awkward moment of unsure encore hopes fell over the crowd. The wait did not last long and Nao did not disappoint. Between the two song encore of Drive and Disconnect and Bad Blood she pedestaled the microphone and fully committed to her dancing as the band displayed their instrumental prowess. As the night truly drew to a close she grabbed the mic and spoke to crowd with the biggest of smiles adorning her face “thank you Portland! See you next year!”

Yes we will.                                          

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